“Visions From Realities” is something of an anomaly. Although recording under the moniker of Active Heed the album is actually the brainchild of Italian songwriter Umberto Pagnini. And while that in itself is not all that uncommon - I've reviewed many project bands which were little more than a platform for a single multi-instrumentalists, or one main artist and an assembly of guest artists bringing his or her project to fruition such as Robert McClung and his project Telergy (“The Exodus” and “The Legend Of Goody Cole”) or Marek Arnold's project band Cyril (“Gone Through Years”). But what sets Active Heed apart is the fact that group-leader Pagnini is listed solely as composer and lyricist. There is no mention of any instrumental performance what-so-ever. His major contribution on “Visions From Realities” is relegated to be overseer and project architect – basically drawing up the blueprints (composition and lyrics) while leaving the actual creation and recording of the music to his hired hands.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, talented songwriters like Burt Bacharach have amassed great wealth and accolades by writing pop standards for artists like Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney, The Carpenters, Dusty Springfield, Bobbie Gentry, Del Shannon, Tom Jones, and Herb Albert.
And Umberto Pagnini is a talented songwriter. But the tunes on “Active Heed” have more in common with the pop singles of Burt Bacharach, the adult contemporary genre, and alternative rock ballads than any category within progressive rock genre.
Umberto Pagnini's musical compositions are for the most part excellent; the audio production crisp, clean, yet warm and inviting (thanks to Alberto Callegari - engineering and mastering); and the over-all musicianship (mostly from Lorenzo Poli who deserves a special nod of approval for his work) is extraordinary, while the vocals were a bit uneven in parts … sometimes sounding a little too much like a Broadway musical for my liking.
Musical line-up on “Visions From Realities” include: Lorenzo Poli (arrangements, bass, guitars, keyboards, and special effects), Giovanni Giorgi (drums), PelleK (vocals), Marit Borresen (vocals), and Mark Colton (vocals).
The tracks on the album which might wedge themselves into the prog/rock genre are the heavily orchestrated tracks like “Me, One Second Before John Robeck”, “Forest And Joy” and “If I Will Never Be” which have a nice Mandalaband feel. The 14th track “Usual Plays In Heaven – Be Kind And Talk To Me” opens like a heavenly track from a Mike Oldfield/Maggie Reilly collaboration before branching out in an altogether different direction.
As a critical overview I'd be hard-pressed to call this a progressive rock album, although Umberto Pagnini is misrepresenting it in such a way on his website … right down to the Roger Dean-esque artwork. Which in one respect may work against him, because what “Visions From Realities” is, is an excellent collection of radio friendly pop/rock tunes with great commercial potential, catchy hooks, and a much wider audience appeal than the somewhat limited progressive rock market he is currently targeting.
Highly recommended for fans of 'excellent music' not filed under any specific category.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on September 15th, 2013